For beginning or aspiring farmers, a few thousand dollars in start-up cash, an experienced mentor and support network, and a solid business plan can be the keys to a successful farm start-up. All of these things are available to participants in Practical Farmers of Iowa's two-year Savings Incentive Program.
The October 9, 2015 application deadline for enrolling in the 2016-2017 program is quickly approaching, so now is the time to put together an application for one of the nation's most unique and effective beginning farmer programs. Applications must be filled out and submitted using the online application form, found at practicalfarmers.org/savings-incentive-program/.
Up to 15 beginning farmers will be chosen for this next class
Up to 15 beginning farmers will be admitted to this sixth round of Savings Incentive Program participation. Those admitted will be part of the Class of 2017, and are selected by a committee of PFI members using an evaluation system that rewards a noticeable commitment to developing applicants' independent farming goals. Selections will be made in early November. To date, 92 beginning farmers have been or are currently active in the program.
The Savings Incentive Program works by encouraging enrollees to save up to $100 per month for two years. After 24 months and completion of all program requirements, participants will earn a dollar-for-dollar match on money saved up to $2,400, for a possible $4,800 to use toward purchasing a farm asset. The two-year program also pairs participants with experienced farm mentors; offers business plan support; and provides access to numerous learning opportunities, and a network of farming peers.
Participants are paired with a mentor, and have a business plan
Requirements: As part of the program, participants are paired with a mentor, with whom they must meet in-person at least three times in the first year. Participants also:
•Open and manage a savings account with Practical Farmers' partner bank
•Meet at least one time in person with a business plan reviewer
•Create or fine-tune a business or whole-farm plan
•Attend at least four PFI events per year. PFI events include online trainings, field days, conferences, workshops and more
•Conduct quarterly reviews with PFI staff to check on progress toward goals and program requirements
•Complete all forms and requested information on time
Wendy Johnson, a beginning farmer near Charles City, explains the benefits of networking through the program: "Through the Savings Incentive Program, I have been able to network and meet other beginning farmers who are going through similar challenges and who have similar questions and curiosities. I also get the opportunity to learn from the experts, the farmers who have been farming for many years and who are willing to share their successes and their failures."
Who is eligible to participate in this program?
To be eligible, applicants must either be farming on their own now and have farmed for five or fewer years, or have some experience working for a farm business. This includes, but is not limited to: internships, apprenticeships, working as an hourly or salaried employee or working on the family farm.
Applicants must also reside in Iowa or farm in the state (out-of-state residents are eligible, so long as they are farming in Iowa), and be members of Practical Farmers of Iowa. Those who are not currently members can join at practicalfarmers.org or by calling 515-232-5661. For answers to your questions about the Savings Incentive Program or application process, contact Julie Wheelock at 515-232-5661 or [email protected].